Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Adobe Photoshop > Technique

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Using the Layer Mask Feature

A layer mask does something a little more substantial and dramatic than the name suggests. When you put a layer into Layer Mask mode, you can erase and restore image areas using selection or painting tools, but none of the changes are permanent. You can take a few minutes to refine the edge of an object on a layer, save the file, and open it up in a week, and still the changes you've made are proposed ones—nothing you see is permanent until you remove (apply) the layer mask. Let's get to the example of the layer mask, the dart, and the 15ball in the Pocket image.

Creating a Unique Composition Through Layers

You need to do two things to get the dart looking as though it was thrown at the 15ball by a small explosion. First, the dart needs to be on the top layer. Next, you need to remove part of the dart's tip and part of its shadow, combine the two dart pieces, and position them over the 15ball.

That's the plot. Let's get hatching...

Pinning Down a 15ball

  1. Drag the Dart layer title on the Layers palette to the top of the individual layers, as shown in item 1 of Figure 4.7. Or, if you remember the key commands for this, press Ctrl()+] (right bracket) until you can see the Dart title above the 15ball title.

  2. Move the dart closer to the 15ball by using the Move tool to drag the Dart layer, as shown in item 2 of Figure 4.7.

Figure 4.7Figure 4.7 The dart should be in front of the 15ball, and the two objects should be close to one another.

  1. Zoom in (Ctrl()+plus sign) so that you have a good view of the tip of the dart, and place that dart tip on the upper left of the pool ball. As you can see in Figure 4.8 a 100% viewing resolution does the trick. Now, click the Layer Mask icon with the Dart layer as the active layer. Weird stuff is going to happen when you go to apply the Paintbrush tool and the foreground color!

Figure 4.8Figure 4.8 When a layer's layer mask is in place, you are editing the visibility of areas; you are not moving or painting them.

  1. Click the Swap foreground/background colors icon if necessary to make black the current editing color. The Swap icon looks like a bent, two-headed arrow; you'll find it to the upper right of the color selection boxes on the toolbox. Choose the Paintbrush tool, and then right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) to produce the Brushes palette over your work. Click the 19-pixel tip (this is the default palette of tips from which you're working), and press Enter to make your choice—and make the floating palette disappear. Drag the Paintbrush cursor over the tip of the dart, shortening the tip by about 50%. Do the same to the tip on the shadow of the dart.

  2. Black hides objects on a layer, and applying white restores the hidden areas. So if you goof, press X to swap foreground and background default colors, and restore what you wiped out.

  3. 5When your editing is finished (it should look pretty much like item 1 in Figure 4.9), drag the right thumbnail on the Dart layer title into the trash icon. Make sure it's the right side one you're trashing—this is the layer mask thumbnail (see item 2 in Figure 4.9). If you drag the left thumbnail into the trash, you delete the entire layer.

Figure 4.9Figure 4.9 Dragging the layer mask thumbnail into the trash means that you're serious about what you've painted to hide, and you want to permanently delete the hidden areas from the file.

  1. Next, the "last chance" attention box pops up (see Figure 4.10). When you trash a layer mask, Photoshop asks you whether you want to Apply the mask (permanently deleting hidden image areas), Cancel (think twice about trashing the hidden areas), or Discard (throw away your masking work and return everything to the way it was).

    Go for it. Click Apply with a swift, definitive keystroke.

Figure 4.10Figure 4.10 What a polite program!

  1. As you've probably noticed, there's a gap now between where the shadow of the dart ends and where the dart tip begins. This is a tad unrealistic, no? Press Ctrl()+S at this point, keep the image and Photoshop open, and we'll show you a trick in the following section for the precise union of dart and shadow.

There was a term a long time ago for what Adobe used to call an image area that was floating on top of the current editing layer. The name was floating selection. Adobe has dropped the term in recent versions and doesn't even tell you what's going on when you float an image area; however, that's okay. In the next section, we are going to show you how to create a floating selection and make it work for you.

Floating and Aligning the Dart with Its Shadow

As of version 4 of Photoshop, selection tools were redesigned to create selections, but they could not move the contents of the selection. Now the Move tool takes care of such feats as moving image areas on layers.

But by using a shortcut key and the arrow keys on your keyboard, you define a pretty broad selection around the dart and still place it precisely where you want it in the image.

Let's try out a new technique:

Finishing the Weird Composition

  1. With Dart as the target layer (I think there is an unintentional pun in there someplace), choose the plain Lasso tool, and drag a selection marquee around the dart, as shown in Figure 4.11. Be careful not to select any of the dart shadow.

Figure 4.11Figure 4.11 The selection might seem broad, but in reality, you are only selecting the non-transparent pixels on the layer—the dart.

  1. With the Lasso tool still chosen (and Feathering made 0px on the Options bar), place it inside the selection marquee and then hold Ctrl(). The cursor turns into a tiny Move tool with a pair of scissors hanging off of it. This means that if you move the marquee right now, the action will cut the selected area's contents from the layer. Nothing but transparency surrounds the dart, so this action is not destructive—and the dart selection is now hovering above the Dart layer.

  2. While holding the Ctrl() key, press the down- and right-arrow keys until the dart meets the tip of its shadow, as shown in Figure 4.12. You'll notice also that as soon as the marquee selection is moved, the marquee changes shape to conform to the non-transparent areas within the selection. This is a nice visual confirmation that you are moving the right thing on a layer.

Figure 4.12Figure 4.12 Hold Ctrl() and then use the keyboard arrow keys to nudge the selection toward the tip of the shadow.

TIP

Add Power to Your Keypress Just in case "power-nudging" sounds like fun to you, let us tell you what it is. You can hold Shift while you press the arrow keys to nudge a selection by 10 pixels instead of by one. This makes your fingers all twisted, but it can save time when you need coarse movement editing, followed by precise movements.

  1. Press Ctrl()+D to deselect the marquee, use the Move tool to reposition the dart so that it looks like it's piercing the 15ball, and you're done! In Figure 4.13, you can see the finished piece. I'm going to frame my copy and put it in the game room (right next to the conservatory...in my dreams).

  2. Keep Photoshop open, save the Pocket image, and keep it open, too.

Figure 4.13Figure 4.13 Reality is what you make it in Photoshop.

For the super fussy-at-heart, there is a mistake in the finished dart and pool ball image—in the shadow of the dart. Right now, the shadow extends in a linear fashion away from the dart tip, when, in reality, if a dart happened to get stuck in a pool ball, the shadow on the pool ball would be curved, and then it would be linear as soon as the shadow hits the table top.

You know what? Who's going to notice? I am exceptionally nit-picky on aspects of photorealism in Photoshop pieces, but this is one inaccuracy that you can afford to let go. Why? Because the shadow of the dart is at such a steep angle that it is severely distorted, and the average viewer will not notice that the shaded part of the pool ball doesn't shade it with an arc.

The sub-lesson here is that if you create an image that is dramatic and striking and appealing and all that, most viewers will skip over the small flaws.

Coming attractions: You're going to use an Adjustment Layer to enhance the tones in the Pocket image.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020